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Pfizer-BioNTech likely to be effective against new mutant COVID-19 variant; Study

Texas, Jan 08: Pfizer Inc and BioNTechs COVID-19 vaccine appeared to work against a key mutation in the highly transmissible new variants of the coronavirus discovered in Britain and South Africa, according to a laboratory study conducted by the U.S. drugmaker.


The study by Pfizer and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, indicated the vaccine was effective in neutralizing virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein.


The mutation could be responsible for greater transmissibility and there had been concern it could also make the virus escape antibody neutralization elicited by the vaccine, said Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizers top viral vaccine scientists.


The first results of tests on the variants offer a glimmer of hope while more studies are carried out as Britain and other countries try to tame the more infectious variants which authorities believe are driving a surge in infections that could overwhelm healthcare systems.


The Pfizer-BioNTech study was conducted on blood taken from people who had been given the vaccine. Its findings are limited because it does not look at the full set of mutations found in either of the new variants of the rapidly spreading virus.


Dormitzer said it was encouraging that the vaccine appears effective against the mutation, as well as 15 other mutations the company has previously tested against.


“So weve now tested 16 different mutations, and none of them have really had any significant impact. Thats the good news,” he said. “That doesnt mean that the 17th wont.”


Dormitzer said another mutation found in the South African variant, called the E484K mutation, was also concerning. The researchers plan to run similar tests to establish whether the vaccine is effective against other mutations found in the British and South African variants and hope to have more data within weeks. The variants are said by scientists to be more transmissible than previously dominant ones, but they are not thought to cause more serious illness.


Scientists said the results of the study would help calm concerns that people will not be protected by vaccines being given to millions of people around the world in the fight against the pandemic, which has killed more than 1.8 million people and roiled economies.


But they cautioned that more clinical tests and data are still needed to come to a definitive conclusion.


“This is good news, mainly because it is not bad news,” said Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.


“So, yes this is good news, but it does not yet give us total confidence that the Pfizer (or other) vaccines will definitely give protection.”


AstraZeneca, Moderna and CureVac are also testing whether their shots work against the fast-spreading variants. They have said they expect them to be effective, but the timing of those studies are not known. A senior British lawmaker expressed concerns in an interview on Friday that COVID-19 vaccines might not work properly against the South African variant. He was not responding to questions about Friday`s data.


The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the one from Moderna Inc, which use synthetic messenger RNA technology, can be quickly tweaked to address new mutations of a virus if necessary. Scientists have suggested the changes could be made in as little as six weeks.


The variant is not the first of the pandemic to emerge and Eleanor Riley, professor of immunology and infectious disease at the University of Edinburgh, said these types of study will be needed as they appear. “It may be necessary to tweak the vaccine over time,” she said.

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High time to take all precautions, we shouldn’t allow situation go out of control: Dr Naveed Nazir

Says over 100 beds available with oxygen facility at CD hospital almost full, have ventilators as backup, one more oxygen plant coming up this month; Covid vaccine prevents severity among patients

(Asian News Hub) – Kashmir’s top medico and the frontline Covid warrior Dr Naveed Nazir Monday said that it’s high time for the people to take all precautions to prevent the spread of Covid=19 pandemic and that the situation shouldn’t be allowed to go out of control.

Head of Department at Chest Diseases Hospital Dalgate, Srinagar, Dr Naveed said that the situation shouldn’t be allowed to go out of control and people should take all precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We had been stating that Covid is here and it has not gone away. One thing that needs to be hailed is that people have started following SoPs. There is hardly anyone who doesn’t wear a mask. This is a good sign,” he said, adding that “we must strictly follow SoPs and contain the situation.”

About the present position at CD hospital, one of the premier hospitals dealing with the Covid positive patients, Dr Naveed said that there are over 100 beds available for the virus affected patients and almost there is 90 per cent occupancy. “We are not admitting patients with mild symptoms and they are asked to go for home isolation. At present all our beds are almost full. We have oxygen facility at all the beds and have ventilators as a backup as well. We also have 50 more beds available as a backup at a nursing home,” the leading medico said. He said that all the cases admitted at CD hospital are severe cases who need oxygen and injectable.

Dr Naveed was speaking after attending a meeting convened by the SMC Mayor Junaid Matoo to take stock of the preparations to deal with the situation that has arisen after a huge spike in Covid positive cases in Kashmir. Over 1500 positive cases were reported in J&K UT on Sunday, highest in the past six months. He said that there is no shortage of oxygen in Srinagar and one more oxygen plant is coming up in the city this month.

Dr Naveed, who is a frontline Covid warrior, said that SMHS and other hospitals have also been designated as Covid hospitals “but people shouldn’t allow the situation to go out of control and stick to Covid protocols strictly.”

About the Covid vaccine, he said that there are some cases who have tested positive even after taking the Covid vaccine, but that is obvious as the vaccine takes at least three weeks to adjust in the body. “Its efficacy too isn’t 100 percent but it has surely helped to prevent the severity in the patients who test positive, which is significant. People must take Covid vaccines as it helps to prevent mortality,” he said.

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AstraZeneca could have COVID-19 vaccine against variant by end of 2021

(Asian News Hub) – A modified version of AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine tailored to combat a coronavirus variant first documented in South Africa could be ready by the end of 2021, an AstraZeneca official in Austria said in an interview published on Sunday.

Sarah Walters, AstraZeneca’s Austria country manager, told the Kurier newspaper that studies, so far, indicating the existing AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective against the more infectious variant first documented in South Africa were “too small to draw final conclusions”.

“In the meantime, AstraZeneca and Oxford University have started on modifications to the vaccine for the South African variant and we expect it will be ready by the end of the year, should it be needed,” Walters told the Kurier.

Walters blamed challenges – including delivery delays for the AstraZeneca shot in the European Union – on the “complex process” of producing a vaccine, coupled with the extremely high demand arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We had to work without keeping a supply in reserve. As a result, we couldn’t make up for unexpected events,” she said. “We are confident that we will fulfill our commitment to deliver 300 million doses to the European Union this year.”

The Kurier interview did not directly address ongoing investigations into health concerns over the AstraZeneca shot. The EU has put a warning label on the vaccine over its possible linkage to extremely rare blood clots, Denmark has completely halted use of the vaccine and Britain has advised people under 30 to get another brand of vaccine.

Asked about “thousands” of people in Austria who are cancelling their appointments for AstraZeneca shots, Walters said the company’s plan was “to continue to transparently provide information about efficacy and safety to doctors, so that they can adequately inform people” of benefits and risks.

British and European Union medicine regulators have said that the overall benefits of using the vaccine outweigh any risks of rare clotting.

Reuters

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N95 masks are a must as COVID-19 spreads via airborne transmission too: AIIMS Chief

(Asian News Hub) – AIIMS chief Randeep Guleria said on Sunday that the fact that coronavirus can be transmitted through aerosols makes it more contagious since these are much smaller and lighter particles than droplets.

Because of their small size, aerosols can hang in the air and travel a distance of even up to 10 metres. He emphasised the need to use N95 masks for staying safe from the deadly disease.

Until now the emphasis has been that coronavirus is transmitted predominantly through droplets while coughing or sneezing. However, a study published in the reputed British medical journal The Lancet this week concludes that coronavirus spreads predominantly through airborne transmission.

Since the disease is airborne a social distance of 3 metres is not enough to keep you safe and you can get infected even after a person has left the immediate vicinity as the virus could be lingering in the air.

Speaking on NDTV, Dr Guleria said the debate of droplets versus aerosols has been going on for the last eight or nine months but the fact that the disease can be transmitted through aerosols which can travel through longer distances in the air makes the disease more contagious.

He said the virus from an infected person can linger in the air for much longer when it is carried in aerosols as these are much smaller particles than droplets which drop to the ground in the immediate vicinity.
Thus while a social distance of 3 metres is enough in the case of droplets, when it comes to aerosols the distance which the virus can travel could go up to 10 metres.

He said it is essential, therefore, to keep all rooms well ventilated so that aerosols are not left hanging in the air. The doors and windows of a room should be kept open, he added.

Guleria also said that meetings should not be held in closed rooms as if there is an infected person he can leave aerosols in the air. These are left floating in the air even after the person has left.

The AIIMS chief said it was also important to wear N95 masks as these can effectively stop the virus. But he emphasised that the mask should be worn properly so that it completely seals the nose and mouth. One must ensure that no air enters from the sides of the mask. N95 masks are a must.

He also said that in the case of a surgical mask or cloth masks, which are not as effective as N95 masks, wearing two masks helps as this provides a double layer of protection.

But if it is an N95 mask worn properly, then one mask is enough, he added.

AGENCY

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